Syria’s national news agency put out this call for happy summer photos on Monday, even though the country has been ravaged by war for four years now.
Syria’s war started in 2011 when President Bashar al-Assad launched a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests. It has since killed around 220,000 people and has caused more than half of Syrians to flee their homes.
The war has become ever more complex over the last four and a half years – it now pits Assad against a host of militia groups. It's the biggest driver in the current global refugee crisis, according to the United Nations' refugee agency. Syria's instability has also fueled the rise of ISIS.
So it was perhaps unsurprising that most of the pictures tweeted in response showed scenes such as these, posted by a prominent Syrian blogger who gives their location as “in exile” from the city of Homs.
Even the U.S. Embassy tweeted this from its official account.
Assad regularly uses barrel bombs, according to the UN and other monitoring groups. He is also accused of using chemical weapons against his opponents and on civilians, The Guardian reported last week. Assad has denied both of these allegations.
A Syrian who runs an anti-Assad blog posted this.
And a voluntary group that rescues survivors from the rubble after bomb attacks tweeted this screenshot from a CNN report.
Here are some of the other pictures that people posted on Twitter. Some of them said in their bios that they are based in Europe.
All of which led a Middle East expert at a think tank in Washington, D.C., to ask:
Some of the pictures that were tweeted had previously been posted on this anti-Assad blog.
Last year, people mocked Syria holding presidential elections amidst the war using the hashtag #AssadCampaignSlogans, the Washington Post reported at the time.